Monday, September 29, 2008

Homily for Monday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time - Feast of the Archangels

Mary, Queen of the Angels, pray for us!

St. Michael, who is like god, pray for us!

Angels are everywhere, including in Sacred Scripture, so believing in them and seeking recourse through them is an essential part of the Christian faith. To list all the places where angels did the will of God would take pages and pages. Since St. Michael the Archangel was my first parish, I am sure I have a special affection for him and for his mission to cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls (from common devotional prayer to St. Michael). To have God Almighty Himself fight Satan would have been an unfair fight, and one that would not have taken very long to play out. A more interesting fight, and the one we think about, is Michael and his angels battling Satan and his fallen angels, and we imagine it to be a great battle indeed, with the outcome somewhat in doubt. What puts Michael over the top, however, is that he, like all creatures belongs to Christ, in whom and through whom all things were made. Angels are not properly the property of God the Father, for God the Father has handed all things over to His Son. The angels enjoy the special assistance of Christ, for they are His angels serving His redemptive purposes, and it is the help of Christ which guarantees and enables the victory of Michael over Satan. Let us pray that this victory become more and more definitive here on earth, as we all call upon St. Michael to be our defender in the battle against evil. Michael and all his angels deliver the grace, mercy and power of God in just the right amount that we need to win our own battle against evil. They stand ready as well to take our small sacrifices made to build the Kingdom of God to God's altar in heaven (Eucharistic Prayer I). +m

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I'm off this evening to the St. Lawrence WineFEST at the Overland Park Marriott, an event I helped coordinate back in 1997 and 1998 before I left for seminary. It should be a great time with 250 friends supporting the Church's mission to the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk!). Archbishop Keleher is this year's honoree who will receive the St. Lawrence award, and Archbishop Naumann will be there at some point in the evening as well. Please pray that I get over my food poisoning a bit quicker (tough night!) and that tonight is a successful evening for St. Lawrence and its supporters! St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr of the Church, pray for us!

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

For daily readings, see
Mary, Queen of Vocations, pray for us!

How's this for irony? 96% of Americans believe in God, but new books on atheism are always near the top of the best seller lists. Does this seem strange to you? Well, it doesn't seem strange to me because I am part of the irony. I love to buy the latest writings of atheists, as well as the latest Catholic apologies, in order to compare and to contrast the two. Yes, that is right, a priest who has been given a great faith in God gets a kick out of the latest atheistic literature. Now it is not so much that I just have to know what the enemy is up to, or that I think it is fun to dance with the devil. It is more that I like the exercise of encountering new arguments, of which there are few, or old arguments dressed up into supposedly more compelling rhetoric. I like seeing if the new authors can push my buttons in just such a way that I am forced to find a new way of explaining why I do find it reasonable to believe in God, and why I do find God to be good. There are the arguments regarding faith as being unreasonable, especially faith in dogmas like the Resurrection. There are arguments against God made on the evidence of how divisive and hypocritical religion is, something that St. Paul is chastisting the Philippians for in today's second reading. Most pertinent to today's first reading, however, are arguments that God is not good or not fair or not omnipotent, for if He were, there would not be no evil or suffering or death in the world. The argument, put simply, is that if God existed, the world would be perfect, or at the very least, only the guilty would suffer, not the innocent.

I guess this argument has never held much weight with me, first of all because I believe that it is more perfect to create man free, even allowing Him to commit evil, than to have a world where there is no evil but also no real freedom. While I think there is plenty of suffering around us that is hard to understand, and oftentimes we do not arrive at satisfactory answers for the suffering of the innocent on this side of heaven, I do think the world would make even less sense if evil persons were able to live forever. In other words, even though we do not always understand why the innocent have to die, or why all people inherit the sin of Adam whose punishment is death, the world would make a lot less sense if evil people were allowed to live forever, doing harm indefinitely without fear of God's justice. The Israelites in today's first reading are questioning God's justice, ostensibly the punishment of death that all men inherit. The Lord responds by saying that the ways of the Israelites are not fair, if they expect Him to allow them to live forever while remaining selfish and unfaithful.

Regarding the suffering and death of innocent persons, it does seem that this is one of the strongest arguments against God. God could remain good and just, couldn't He, without allowing all people to fall into suffering and death, but just the wicked people. I think people read the writings of the latest most popular atheistic writers seeking new ways of thinking about suffering that is difficult to understand, even if it means suspecting God of perhaps not being as good as we have been led to believe He is. St. Paul in today's second reading to the Philippians, however, gives us precious insight into seeing how even the suffering of the innocent is not a strike against the goodness of God. St. Paul invites the Philippians to humbly regard others as more important than themselves, in imitation of Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not deem equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave. This point is critical if we are to remain convinced of God's goodness in the face of difficulty and suffering. St. Paul shows us clearly that Jesus, who had the life we sometimes dream of having, being in the form of God, not liable to suffering and death, chooses to abandon this form in favor of the form of a slave who must die a humiliating death. In so doing, Jesus reveals the fullness of God's divine love, a self-emptying love that humbly seeks the good of others, and finds something worth dying for. Jesus chose to die for us while we were still sinners, and thus shows us that what makes God good is not his rearranging things for us so that we can all go back to the Garden of Eden and sip margaritas together. No, what makes God good is that He chose to die for us, and calls us to be good in this way, using the power and example of Christ Jesus. God is good because through His Son He defines a life worth living as more than avoiding the land mines that threaten us, but as the opportunity to use our freedom to choose a way of suffering and dying that will bring meaning to our lives and life to others, including our enemies who trespass against us. God is good because He shows us how to choose suffering and death like His Son before suffering and death choose us! In other words, even though it is hard to understand why suffering and death befall the innocent, even the innocent are not resigned to victimhood, but can choose to suffer for something beyond themselves, or join the suffering that befalls them to the suffering of Christ, who though not subject to death chose to die so that sinners like you and me might have life. +m

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Conception Abbey

We priests of the Archdiocese just completed three days of working with our Archbishop on the topic of presbyteral unity, led by Fr. Ron Knott of St. Meinrad School of Theology ( Fr. Ron characterized the diocesan priesthood as a intimate sacramental brotherhood whose holiness is found by being good and being good 'at it.' In other words, there is a holiness distinctive to diocesan priests, for they particularly are called to be holy through helping others to be holy. A diocesan priest, who has the threefold ministry of preaching, sanctifying and ruling but has no other distinguishing charism like a religious priest, must realize that the sacrament of Holy Orders is not the conferral of holiness in and of itself, but like a marriage produces holiness insofar as it serves the holiness of others. A diocesan priest, along with his brothers, then, takes on a particular responsibility to be good and competent at preaching, sanctifying and ruling, and this is as primary as his own personal pursuit of holiness. Fr. Knott demonstrated this theology through the documents Presbyterum Ordinis and Pastores Dabo Vobis, the latter of which he called the Magna Carta for the ongoing formation of diocesan priests.

This was a good week, and a beautiful one, experienced within the setting of Conception Abbey and Seminary College, where the Archdiocese has four college-aged men studying for the priesthood. Fr. Knott as well showed the tendencies toward weakness present among diocesan priests which in turn damage presbyterates and dioceses. He was convincing in his assertion that being a diocesan priest never gives a priest a license to be a lone range, even if a priest is asked to work in a remote assignment or to live alone. He challenged our diocese to give witness to our identity as an intimate sacramental brotherhood, saying correctly, I believe, that vocations to the priesthood will always be sporadic and few unless we become a team that others want to be a part of.

Homily for Friday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Most of you here today know whether your faith in Jesus is growing stronger or weaker. Do you want a test to see which it is? Answer me this question, then, are you more excited to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament today than you were when you were on the day of your 1st Communion, or are you less excited. Many of you are perhaps less excited, and see receiving communion today as no big deal, but of course this is not a good thing. Jesus pauses in today's Gospel to see where his disciples are in regarding to having faith in Him. As far as we can tell, 11 of the disciples weren't ready to profess their faith in Jesus as the Christ of God, for only Peter speaks. The question among those of us gathered here this morning for Mass should be similar to this morning's Gospel scene. Before we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we should hear Jesus speaking to us and asking us the question - who do you say that I am? If we are not ready to step forward and answer the question with honesty, then we are probably honestly not ready either to receive the Eucharist I'm not saying that some of us here this morning are more or less ready to receive the Eucharist, but I am saying that at the very least, we should make it our goal to profess our faith in Jesus more and more clearly each day we follow Him, and make a more perfect consecration towards loving Him in the same way that He loves us, if we dare to approach the altar to receive His body and His blood. What is at stake is not so much the danger that we would receive Jesus unworthily, although we should pay attention to that as well. What is at stake really is that we might take the Eucharist without realizing who Jesus is, or how much He loves us, or how completely He wishes to redeem our hearts and our lives each and every time we receive His precious body and blood. Let's not let someone else speak for our faith, but may each one of us step forward like Peter in faith before we step forward together to be transfomred by the miracle we will receive. +m

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Meditation Given at Benedictine College on the Memorial of Sts Cornelius and Cyprian, martyrs

Given During Holy Hour at Benedictine College
16 September 2008
Memorial of Sts Cyprian and Cornelius, martyrs

A reading from the Acts of martyrdom of St. Cyprian

The governor Galerius Maximus said: ‘Have you posed as the pontiff of a sacrilegious group?’ The bishop answered: “I have.’ Then the governor said: ‘Our most venerable emperors have commanded you to perform the religious rites.’ Bishop Cyprian replied: “I will not do so.’ Galerius Maximus said: ‘Consider your position.’ Cyprian replied: ‘Follow your orders. In such a just cause there is no need for deliberation.’ Then Galerius Maximus, after consulting with his council, reluctantly issued the following judgment: ‘You have long lived with your sacrilegious convictions, and you have gathered about yourself many others in a vicious conspiracy. You have set yourself up as an enemy of the gods of Rome and our religious practices. The pious and venerable emperors have been unable to draw you back to the observance of their holy ceremonies. You have been discovered as the author and leader of these heinous crimes, and will consequently be held forth as an example for all those who have followed you in your crime. By your blood the law shall be confirmed.’ Next he read the sentence from a tablet: ‘It is decided that Thascius Cyprian should die by the sword.’ Cyprian responded: ‘Thanks be to God!’

How closely each one of us gathered here tonight should want to imitate this great example of courage and faith shown by the Church father Cyprian. How much should we pray for each other tonight, that when we leave this time of prayer we would be more ready to give the world an uncomplicated witness of the strength of our faith in Jesus Christ. St. Cyprian, great bishop and martyr of the early Church, pray for us!

As vocation director of the Archdiocese, you might say that it is my job to help young men and women make a less complicated gift of their lives. Before all of us are so many good opportunities – things we could do with our lives, things we could study, people we could get closer to, that discernment of what we should actually do becomes complicated. Very few of us feel like we have the same opportunity put before St. Cyprian, to straightforwardly die in a blaze of glory in witness to our faith. Instead we feel like we have the opportunity to do a thousand different little things for God, and wonder if we will ever become self-disciplined enough to get to them all. An example would be a young person who at the same time wants to be an engineering and a theology major, another young person who wants to be married and yet also feels a strong attraction to religious life, yet another young person who wants to develop a deeper prayer life but also has to make time for a part-time job to help pay for his education. Other young people who want to make a big impact with their lives might also feel like a particular sin that is plaguing them must be perfectly conquered before they can consider making any bold moves in witness to Christ. Many of us feel like we have a long way to go before we can consider making a straightforward, powerful gift of our lives in imitation of someone great like St. Cyprian. We do not think such an opportunity is right in front of us.

As we discern what God is calling us to do with our lives, we have to assume however, that our opportunity to make a great and courageous gift of our lives is close. Dangerous is a discipleship that is always trying to make God and His will a bigger part of our lives, rather than abandoning our lives in response to His call. We have to be careful that our discipleship becomes more than a habit of making constant adjustments that hopefully will make our choices for our lives more pleasing to God. Instead, we have to continue to allow Jesus to blow apart our own expectations of what life should be, and be ready to make a genuinely sacrificial response to Jesus’ call to ‘leave everything’ and to follow Him. We should take every precaution against trying to relativize this call of Jesus so that it matches our own expectations more closely. We should instead expect Jesus to call us to something that is radical, somewhat unreasonable, and quite beyond our expectations, since it is in responding to this kind of call from our Lord that our life might possibly speak as loudly as did the life of St. Cyprian, or to put it more humbly, perhaps, our life might speak as loudly as it is supposed to speak, provided we do exactly what the Lord Jesus is asking of us.

Ssuch a readiness to make a heroic witness is not necessarily dependent upon age. St. Cyprian was older, of course, when made a martyr for the faith at the hands of the Roman governor, but Maria Goretti was a young teenager, the Blessed Mother herself was maybe 14 or 15 at the Annunciation. As I work throughout the Archdiocese, there are a few young people that I meet who are wanting to make as big of a splash as soon as they can. The average age of our seminarians went down significantly this year, as all 7 new seminarians are between the ages of 18 and 24. There are quite a few others in our diocese with whom I visit who are overly cautious in their discernment, even though they may be in their late 20’s or early 30’s, those who see their vocation as a puzzle to be solved, with no easily solution in sight. Normally, I would expect that a younger a person is, the more narcissistic they would be, focused only on what the possibilities are for erotically chasing after the good things that are possibly in front of them. Yet I can and do see some very young people who are ready instead to make a sincere gift of themselves, while I can see some older people who are trapped in a kind of adolescent discernment of being afraid of giving up any options whatsoever.

It is important, as Pope Benedict tells us in his first encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est, to be certain that eros and agape, the two sides of a love that comes together fully in God, are kept in proper balance. Erotic love that seeks only to add things to our lives, but is afraid of cutting anything loose, is narcissistic. Self-emptying love likewise is out of balance if its refuses to thank and to praise God for first having loved us, and for sending His only begotten Son as expiation for our sins. An erotic search for the deepest kind of love should bring us to the cross of Jesus and to the Eucharistic sacrifice, where we see divine love most fully revealed through a man who made Himself a slave of sinners so that He might save them. There is a transition, however, that must take place once we allow ourselves to drink deeply of this perfective kind of love. Eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus demands that we imitate the sacrifice through which divine love is perfectly poured out for us. Is it not disproportionate to eat the body and drink the blood of one who delivered Himself into the hands of sinners without fear or caution or hesitation while remaining cautious and fearful of making a mistake with the gift of our own lives. This is not to say that one should rush into a vocation, nor is it to say that the virtue of prudence, which shows us more easily the next step we should take, however small, should be abandoned. The example of Cyprian does remind us, however, that the goal of our lives is not to seek Jesus’ approval for the choices we are making, but to more radically and more perfectly follow Him, who will give us true freedom by always picking out a life for us that is bigger than any life we would pick for ourselves. If we are to speak the same language to our Lord that He speaks to us through the Blessed Sacrament, we must allow Him in our prayer to break apart our own expectations effectively, so that we can also say ‘This is my body, given for You. This is my blood, poured out for You.’ We must accept the challenge of giving our lives away to the mission the Lord has marked out for us as quickly and as completely as we can. We must likewise assume not that we have time to spare, but that our next opportunity to die for the Lord is right in front of us! This is what it means to carry about in our bodies the heart of a martyr. St. Cyprian, pray for us! Mary, Mother of our Vocations, pray for us!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Homily for Monday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time - 15 Sept 2008 - Our Lady of Sorrows

For daily readings, see

Mary, who shared in the suffering of your Son at the foot of the cross, pray for us!

Mary, who is the closest witness to the Incarnation, God being made man, is also the closest witness, as we hear in today’s Gospel, of the redemption of the world, for she was there at the foot of the cross with John, her sister Mary, and Mary Magdalene. Mary, who presented her Son in the temple where He received the name Jesus, which means the one who will save people from their sins, is there as He offers His body on the cross for the salvation of the world, and for the payment of the debt of all sin that ever was committed or ever will be committed until the end of time. Those of us, then, who wish to be transformed by the mysteries of love revealed at the Incarnation in Bethlehem and at the Crucifixion in Jerusalem want to experience them as May did, and be affected by them in the same way Mary was, for these events affected her to the point of her being full of grace. That is why Jesus gives us His mother to be our mother at the foot of the cross, so that she can teach us how to have the same relationship with Him that she had.

The Memorial of our Lady of Sorrows reminds us that being a follower of Jesus, as Mary was to the utmost degree, is not to become a member of a superficial don’t worry be happy society that ignores human pain and grief because everything will work out in heaven. The Memorial of our Lady of Sorrows shows that real sorrow is not incompatible with faith, even with faith that looks forward in hope to the resurrection and to the realities of heaven where there will be no more tears. Sorrow felt and expressed during the suffering and death of a loved one is a way of proclaiming our love and expressing how good life is on this earth. We would expect Mary’s heart to be pierced with a sword just as surely as was the body of Her Son. Her sorrow expresses her love for her Son, but also expresses her questions of why things had to happen this way.

Through Mary’s eyes, we get to see most intimately the effects of our sins, and the damage that they do to the body of Christ, the Church today. Mary’s sorrow should lead us to express a more perfect contrition for our sins. We should hate our sins with a more perfect hate, insofar as we can see more clearly their effects through the eyes of Mary, who is there at the foot of the cross. What is more, like Mary, we should not shy away from sharing in Christ’s suffering, even choosing to suffer with Him and for Him wherever we can, so that the sorrow that is an inevitable part of life is something that we choose with our freedom. Mary chose to be with Her Son to the end, sharing in His suffering. Through her great and powerful intercession, may we learn to do the same. +m

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Homily for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross - 13 September 2008

For daily readings, see

Lord Jesus, exalted on the cross, have mercy on us and on the whole world!
Lord Jesus, who did not despise the shame of the cross, have mercy on us and on the whole world!
Lord Jesus, who did not come to condemn the world but to save it, have mercy on us and on the whole world!

Mary, who mourned for your Son at the foot of the cross, pray for us!

Fr. Robert Barron from Chicago, in the homily that he composed for this Sunday's feast, which is rarely celebrated on a Sunday, helped to resensitize me to the absurdity of the name of today's feast - the Exaltation of the Cross. Fr. Barron asks whether it would be absurd to imagine exalting the electric chair, lethal injection, or a noose used for hanging criminals. How much more absurd would it be to gather to celebrate state-sponsored torture or terrorism, which is in effect what crucifixion was for the Roman empire, a way of terrorizing people by completely humiliating a person. People were invited to watch as an example was made of a person left naked on a cross for days until he suffocated himself. This is the most gruesome torture, not done in private, but intentionally in public to terrorize people. In celebrating the Feast of the Holy Cross this weekend, we are in effect doing something absurd, were it not for our faith which puts such a great meaning of love into the Holy Cross on which our Lord died. Were it not for our faith, the straightforward meaning of our celebration today would be a gather to exalt execution, torture and terrorism. People would rightly think us sick.

The first disciples who witnessed Jesus' resurrection, however, were able to look back at Jesus' whole life and to understand why the cross was necessary, and what is more, why the meaning of the cross would transcend the meaning we place, for example, on the electric chair. No, the cross is not merely an instrument of execution, it is instead the most powerful sign of love the world has ever known. What is more, Jesus' witness on the cross became for those early Christians one of the most important signs Jesus' ever preformed, more important, certainly, because it was his last sign before His resurrection, but more important, as well, because it was a sign meant for the eternal healing of the world, not a sign worked for the benefit of only a few who were with Jesus when He walked and talked in Galilee. It took a few centuries for the early Church to realize the power of this sign, but when She did realize that the cross was to be exalted and celebrated, it has undoubtedly become the predominant sign, other than the Eucharist, of Christ's incomparable love for His bride, the Church. As we know well in our Catholic tradition, the cross is exalted wherever the Eucharist is celebrated, either by a processional cross, an altar cross, or a cross made visible for all the faithful to contemplate and venerate, so that the faithful who receive the merits of the cross most intimately during communion, may easily contemplate the redemptive love that has come forward in history since the time the Lord hung upon that tree.

The sign of the cross is prefigured for us in our first reading from Numbers. The penalty for the disobedience of the Israelites was a plague of serpents, but once Moses lifted a serpent up on a pole, all who gazed upon the serpent were healed. So too, the penalty for the pride of Adam, in which we all participate, for we all are guilty of trying to exalt ourselves over and against God, is death through the eating of fruit from a tree. The cure for this death we all inherit, however, is the eating of the fruit from the tree of life, the body and the blood of our Lord offered for the salvation of the world on the wood of the cross. The Isralites died at the hands of serpents, but it is through a serpent they were healed. Our pride makes us liable to death whenever we suspect that God who is all good and all loving does not really desire our good, but is holding out on us somehow, so much so that we have to determine what is good for ourselves, choosing to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But the humility of Jesus, who as a man did not deem equality with God something to be grapsed at, rather emptying Himself and taking the form of a slave, gives us access once again to what was lost by Adam, a dynamic and enduring relationship with God who is the source of life, as we eat the true and enduring wisdom of God, Jesus Christ Himself through the Blessed Sacrament. Eating the fruit of the tree in the garden may enable us to determine good and evil however we see fit, without anyone being the boss of us, so to speak. But eating the fruit of that tree does not make us free. The one who is truly free is the one who eats the fruit from the wood of the cross. Whoever eats the fruit of the tree which is the Holy Cross that we exalt today will never die, but will share in the wisdom and life and love of God forever.

This, I suppose, is where this homily should end, with a discussion of who is truly free. Jesus, facing the sentence of death, was reminded by Pilate that Pilate had the power to crucify Him. Jesus shows the meaning of real freedom when He says that Pilate does not have the power to crucify Him, for Jesus freely chose to be crucified. In the same way, those of us gathered here tonight are free to pursue power, success, or the immediate fulfillment of our many pressing desires. Those who are most free in this Church tonight, however, are those who are ready to freely lay down their lives for someone and something greater than themselves. Pope Benedict in his first encyclical to us, Deus Caritas Est, God is love, delineated for us two kinds of love, eros and agape, that are meant to come together in God, who is love! Eros is a beautiful, romantic kind of love that seeks to add beautiful things to our lives to make our lives better. Yet eros that does not mature into agape leads to narcissism - we can become trapped into trying to make everything good, including God, a bigger part of our lives, without ever considering how we are to make a complete gift of our lives to someone or something else. Adding great things to our lives, most notably the love of others, should lead us erotically to this sacrifice of love that is right before us, where Jesus reveals his readiness to be our spouse and savior, loving us completely and precisely at our weakest point. Our search for the very best things in life should lead us here, where we encounter a love that knows no limits, and a person who is free enough to place His life into the hands of sinners for the salvation of all. Once we receive this love in the Eucharist however, it should make us realize all the more that eros that is not turned into agape is narcissistic. What is deepest within a person is not the erotic desire to add things to our lives; no, what is deepest within us is the desire to make a perfect gift of ourselves in love. What brings ultimate meaning and purpose and deep happiness, joy and peace to our lives is finding something worth dying for, and then accepting the challenge of giving our lives as quickly and as completely as we can. This great mystery of love and the meaning of the human person is contained in the sign of the cross. That is why we exalt the cross with great faith and devotion, and draw special attention to it tonight as we celebrate this great feast! +m

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homily for Thursday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time - Year II

For daily readings, see

Anniversary of the Terrorist Attacks of 11 September 2008
For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world!
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

I just finished my morning theology classes in seminary on 11 September, 2001, when news came that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. My first thought was that an unfortunate pilot had lost control of a small personal or commuter plane. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that what just happened was the worst terrorist attack in history to date. When I entered the chapel for Mass 15 minutes after class, and saw that my brother seminarians were fervently praying the rosary, I knew that I had underestimated the event severely. What a horrendous offense against the sanctity of human life!

As we remember the events of September 11th, and continue to pray for the healing of victims, for an end to terrorism, and for world peace, the lectionary gives us a selection that if read in a certain way, makes Jesus to be the most left-wing pacifist the world has ever known. As McCain and Obama will certainly try to make a case today that they can best defeat terrorism and defend our country from her enemies, we have ironically this teaching of Jesus that we are to instead offer the other cheek to the one who strikes us on one cheek.

We know better, however, than to think that if Jesus was president that He would fail to defend the innocent or let terrorists escape justice. Quite the opposite is true. Jesus may indeed be a pacifist, and would resort to violence as a last resort, instead rather allowing Himself to be persecuted by His enemies, but I would dare say our Lord would hate with a perfect hate and would confront with a serious mean streak any wolves who sought to harm the innocent lambs He has been given by His Heavenly Father to protect. Turning the other cheek has nothing to do with ignoring evil, or allowing it to have the final say. Turning the other cheek is instead the only method available for building a deep and lasting peace. There is no chance for peace and reconciliation where there is no forgiveness, and where there is no one who is willing to suffer evil for the sake of good. Jesus shows this in allowing Himself to be killed by His enemies, so that the greater good of His Resurrection, which alone redeems the world from sin and death, could come about. Being Christian then, is not about being a weakling, but is living to the fullest in imitation of Christ the axiom first given by Socrates; namely, that it is better to suffer evil than to be guilty of committing it.

Jesus says that a sure way to become a child of heaven is to not seek revenge; in other words, a sure way to know that we will have an easy time getting to heaven, is to be someone from whom it is easy to receive forgiveness. There is nothing weak in this, my friedns in Christ. To love is harder than to seek revenge. Love does not brood over injuries, but is always ready to suffer affliction, and to forgive. Heavenly Father, forgive the world of our great sins. Heal the world through the redemptive love of your Son. Make us all instruments of your peace. +m

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Talk Given to KCK Serra Club - 10 September 2008

I would like to begin today's talk reflecting on the lectionary selection for today from Paul's 1st Letter to the Corinthians.

"Brothers and sisters:In regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord,but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.So this is what I think best because of the present distress:that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is.Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation.Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife.If you marry, however, you do not sin,nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries;but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life,and I would like to spare you that.I tell you, brothers, the time is running out.From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing,those buying as not owning,those using the world as not using it fully.For the world in its present form is passing away."

Now as vocation director, you may think that I would jump on this passage as showing the objective superiority of the religious life, since it entails the choice of chastity or celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God, over the married life. Without a doubt, Paul does think this, since a promise of chastity or celibacy does have the effect of 'fast-forwarding' one's life toward the kingdom of heaven, toward things that will last forever. And since we are supposed to love the kingdom of heaven more than the kingdom of earth, St. Paul puts forth that if a man is free of a wife, he is not to look for one, but rather to see if he might be able to bring 'heaven' to earth by considering a pledge of chastity or celibacy, since in heaven man and women will neither be taken nor given in marriage, but will be married directly to God. So St. Paul does talk about the objective superiority of the celibate state over the married state, without saying that the latter is in any way sinful. St. Paul also appeals to something that will probably humor us a bit. He says that the celibate state may not simply be superior objectively, but also practically it may be a little bit easier. St. Paul says that he would like to spare his brothers the affliction that is attached to the married state. I have been told, now, by more than one father that the priesthood looks better the longer one is married. I have been told as well that if the Church really wants vocations to the priesthood, they should put married men in charge of the vocation office, or have prospective candidates for the seminary be a 'dad' for a day in order to show them that celibacy may not be such a big sacrifice afterall. Men give me this advice, of course, tongue in cheek, and they all very much enjoy their vocations as husbands and fathers, but there is a bit of truth in what these dads are saying, a truth that St. Paul also points out to us, that a young man should seriously consider giving his life to the Lord and to the Church through a promise of celibacy, for the world as we know it is passing away.

As vocation director, I am charged with creating a culture, and more specifically, a personal invitation, to all the young men of the diocese to at least consider what St. Paul is saying. In doing this, I am not taking anything away from the tremendous vocation of marriage, a vocation which is greatly needed in our Church and in our society, and a vocation that has been greatly exalted by the teaching of John Paul the great. John Paul has shown us and has helped us to think of marriage as a real participation in the eternal marriage of Christ to His Church, and a real imitation of how Jesus marries His Bride the Church in an eternally fruitful way through the Holy Eucharist. It is hard when I prepare couples for marriage not to be swept up in the tremendous amount of meaning that one can place within the sacrament of marriage. Whatever we can do to prepare our young people better to truly live this sacrament is an endeavor worthy of our prayers and support.

That being said, what St. Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians is no less true, just because we understand better in our Church today thanks to John Paul II what a great and holy sacrament marriage is. What St. Paul says remains true, and must be put forth to young men today in our Church, that one who marries the Church does better, not simply because He is choosing an easier life, but because of the great witness he can give that the world as we know it is passing away. A priest gives witness by his wearing black that this world with all of its blessings is not to be loved more than the kingdom of heaven, but that each person has a duty to seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given Him besides. That is the teaching of the beatitudes given by Jesus in the Gospel for today as well. Listen to what our Lord says to us today:

"Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:“Blessed are you who are poor,for the Kingdom of God is yours.Blessed are you who are now hungry,for you will be satisfied.Blessed are you who are now weeping,for you will laugh.Blessed are you when people hate you,and when they exclude and insult you,and denounce your name as evilon account of the Son of Man.Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophetsin the same way.But woe to you who are rich,for you have received your consolation.But woe to you who are filled now,for you will be hungry.Woe to you who laugh now,for you will grieve and weep.Woe to you when all speak well of you,for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

Jesus in giving us the beatitudes according to Luke is in no way, I think, telling us to hate the world, but is reminding us that if we love this world more than heaven, our present rejoicing will one day turn into mourning, rather than the opposite - having our temporary afflictions and redemptive suffering one day turn into great rejoicing. Jesus tells us there are two ways to live - being afraid of impending death or choosing something to die for, and He proposes the kingdom of heaven as that one thing worth dying for!

St. Paul reminds us today the wisdom of keeping death daily before our eyes, as St. Benedict tells us, or as the psalms say - Lord, make me know the shortness of our lives, that we may gain wisdom of heart." Many of you in this room remember when the United States had the draft for military service, and what is was like to considering giving your life to your country because it was demanded of you. But you know as well that being chosen to offer your life for a just cause was also a noble thing to do, and to lay down one's life in order that other may have freedom and life brings a deeper meaning to life than simply amassing the things of this world. Our young men today have it within them, we have to believe, this desire to love as Christ loves, to find something worth dying for, and to choose to give their lives so that other people may have the life, peace and happiness that Christ alone can bring to the world.

The unfortunate situation, of course, is that this message and invitation of sacrifice is not really getting through to our young people, at least in my humble opinion as your vocation director. When I look at facebook pages, I see lots of guys who are 'dating' girls, and this is not necessarily a bad thing, but I see very few guys willing to 'date' a vocation to the priesthood. The Mormons, for example, are very good at requiring their young people to go on mission for two years, but we as Catholics, while we may be getting slightly better at inviting young people to consider giving 2 years for formation or service, it is not something that we expect of them. Our Catholic young people suffer oftentimes from the lack of a spiritual game plan, and they suffer from the lack of expectations we place in front of them. We are getting better at inviting and putting out sound bytes about following Jesus closely, but I'm afraid we are still not that good at asking and expecting our young people to give years of service to the Lord and His Church. I see 95% of our young men dating girls, but way less than 1% of our Catholic young men dating a vocation to the priesthood, by giving the Lord a couple of years in the seminary, and giving the Lord the benefit of the doubt of calling them the way St. Paul encourages in today's reading.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Homily for Tuesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time - Year II

For daily readings, see

Mary, Queen of Vocations, pray for us!
St. Peter Claver, pray for us!

We were reminded in the Sunday Gospel for this past week that Jesus is more present to his disciples when they are gathered 'together' in His name. What is more, if two or more disciples agree on anything whatsoever for which they are to pray, it will be granted to them by their Father in heaven (Mt 18:15-20). St. Paul too in his admonishment of the Corinthians in today's first reading reminds them that preserving the special unity given them by the Lord Jesus is essential, so essential in fact that one should at least consider enduring injustice or letting oneself be cheated rather than creating the scandal inevitable when one Christian takes another Christian to court. Paul in saying this is not saying that being just to one another is secondary to preserving an artificial or superficial unity among Christians, but in this particular passage he is emphasizing the importance of giving a credible witness to the sanctification and justification that is Christ's gift to His disciples. How will people believe in the grace of Christ, Paul is saying, if they see you failing to forgive each other and unable to reconcile differences? At another time, Paul would be more than ready to confront the disciples for any injustices that exist among them, but for this brief passage at least, Paul is reminding the disciples of the great responsibility they have to give other people a chance to believe in Christ based on how they see Christians acting differently. This timeless admonition of Paul's is one we need so desperately today, for it is all too obvious that the example of one bad Christian can give excuse to any person who is looking for reasons not to believe. The endless fractioning of Christianity is another deterrent to nonbelievers, for the more divided Christians are, the less visible Christ becomes. Sins against unity, then, and sins that create scandal, should be recognized for the great harm they really do cause.

KU Football - Pinch Me!

It was weird going to the game Saturday night and not worrying about losing at all. Even when we were forced to kick a field goal on the first possession, and failed to make a 4th and one, and only led by 3 points when Louisiana Tech went on a 22 play drive, still I expected things to work out in our favor, which of course they did. This is a weird feeling for a KU football fan. I have always prided myself on being more of a KU football fan than a basketball fan, because it took more faith to believe KU football was going to do well. I always was annoyed by KU basketball fans who expected a blowout every game. Now I expect great things for KU football too, and this in just one short season. How quickly I become spoiled. I remember going to KSU last year and thinking we had no chance to win that game in Manhattan. Now I completely expect KU to go to South Florida and come out with a win on the road against a hostile crowd and a Top 20 South Florida team. Too much change, too fast, but I love it!

Project Andrew

Inviting all young men in high school or older for an evening with the Archbishop October 5th in Kansas City or October 12th in Topeka. This is a great discernment evening, with free dinner, where priests from the Archdiocese will give you an inside view of how they were called personally by Christ, and how they were able to respond to that call. The only way you should excuse yourself from this great evening is if you are already engaged to be married or have already begun a seminary application. All other single guys will benefit greatly from this time given to the Lord so that He can ask you to do something great with your life! Register online at

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bishops Conference Fact Sheet on Abortion - New!

Fact sheet by the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Click here to print as a PDF.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (No. 2271).

In response to those who say this teaching has changed or is of recent origin, here are the facts:
From earliest times, Christians sharply distinguished themselves from surrounding pagan cultures by rejecting abortion and infanticide. The earliest widely used documents of Christian teaching and practice after the New Testament in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and Letter of Barnabas, condemned both practices, as did early regional and particular Church councils.

To be sure, knowledge of human embryology was very limited until recent times. Many Christian thinkers accepted the biological theories of their time, based on the writings of Aristotle (4th century BC) and other philosophers. Aristotle assumed a process was needed over time to turn the matter from a woman’s womb into a being that could receive a specifically human form or soul. The active formative power for this process was thought to come entirely from the man – the existence of the human ovum (egg), like so much of basic biology, was unknown.

However, such mistaken biological theories never changed the Church’s common conviction that abortion is gravely wrong at every stage. At the very least, early abortion was seen as attacking a being with a human destiny, being prepared by God to receive an immortal soul (cf. Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”).

In the 5th century AD this rejection of abortion at every stage was affirmed by the great bishop-theologian St. Augustine. He knew of theories about the human soul not being present until some weeks into pregnancy. Because he used the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, he also thought the ancient Israelites had imposed a more severe penalty for accidentally causing a miscarriage if the fetus was “fully formed” (Exodus 21: 22-23), language not found in any known Hebrew version of this passage. But he also held that human knowledge of biology was very limited, and he wisely warned against misusing such theories to risk committing homicide. He added that God has the power to make up all human deficiencies or lack of development in the Resurrection, so we cannot assume that the earliest aborted children will be excluded from enjoying eternal life with God.

In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas made extensive use of Aristotle’s thought, including his theory that the rational human soul is not present in the first few weeks of pregnancy. But he also rejected abortion as gravely wrong at every stage, observing that it is a sin “against nature” to reject God’s gift of a new life.

During these centuries, theories derived from Aristotle and others influenced the grading of penalties for abortion in Church law. Some canonical penalties were more severe for a direct abortion after the stage when the human soul was thought to be present. However, abortion at all stages continued to be seen as a grave moral evil.

From the 13th to 19th centuries, some theologians speculated about rare and difficult cases where they thought an abortion before “formation” or “ensoulment” might be morally justified. But these theories were discussed and then always rejected, as the Church refined and reaffirmed its understanding of abortion as an intrinsically evil act that can never be morally right.

In 1827, with the discovery of the human ovum, the mistaken biology of Aristotle was discredited. Scientists increasingly understood that the union of sperm and egg at conception produces a new living being that is distinct from both mother and father. Modern genetics demonstrated that this individual is, at the outset, distinctively human, with the inherent and active potential to mature into a human fetus, infant, child and adult. From 1869 onward the obsolete distinction between the “ensouled” and “unensouled” fetus was permanently removed from canon law on abortion.

Secular laws against abortion were being reformed at the same time and in the same way, based on secular medical experts’ realization that “no other doctrine appears to be consonant with reason or physiology but that which admits the embryo to possess vitality from the very moment of conception” (American Medical Association, Report on Criminal Abortion, 1871).
Thus modern science has not changed the Church’s constant teaching against abortion, but has underscored how important and reasonable it is, by confirming that the life of each individual of the human species begins with the earliest embryo.

Given the scientific fact that a human life begins at conception, the only moral norm needed to understand the Church’s opposition to abortion is the principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with the respect due to a human person. This is the foundation for the Church’s social doctrine, including its teachings on war, the use of capital punishment, euthanasia, health care, poverty and immigration. Conversely, to claim that some live human beings do not deserve respect or should not be treated as “persons” (based on changeable factors such as age, condition, location, or lack of mental or physical abilities) is to deny the very idea of inherent human rights. Such a claim undermines respect for the lives of many vulnerable people before and after birth.

For more information: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion (1974), nos. 6-7; John R. Connery, S.J., Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective (1977); Germain Grisez, Abortion: The Myths, the Realities, and the Arguments (1970), Chapter IV; U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, On Embryonic Stem Cell Research (2008); Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (1995), nos. 61-2.